In March 1948, then-U.S. secretary of state George Marshall informed president Harry Truman that he personally would not vote for Truman due to the president's support for the establishment of the State of Israel. Marshall argued that this contradicted American interests and accused Truman of supporting Israel out of electoral considerations - namely, Jewish money and votes. Marshall was being a bit unfair: The Holocaust of European Jewry also affected Truman's support for the establishment of a Jewish state. At that time, the prospect of a black man entering the White House seemed like science fiction.
Today, Barack Obama has received the votes, and the money, of about 80 percent of American Jews, even though his rival, John McCain, was more outspokenly sympathetic to the Jewish state. Israelis were the only people in the world who hoped the Republican candidate would win. The new president can thus permit himself to reexamine the "special relationship" with Israel, especially with regard to its shared values with the United States and its contribution to American interests.
What shared values did the black American liberal observe over the last few days as he watched the broadcasts of sites bombed by Israel in the heart of the world's most densely populated region? Is it possible to expect that the memory of the horrors of the Holocaust will influence Obama's relationship with Israel? Last week, a Jewish member of Britain's parliament said his grandmother was not murdered by the Nazis in order to provide a pretext for Israeli soldiers to murder Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza.
The spokesman for the Israeli consulate in New York boasted of the masses who attended a solidarity demonstration with the children of Sderot. He did not mention the masses of Jews who do not know where to hide their shame at the sight of pictures of Palestinian men weeping bitterly over the families who perished under the ruins of their houses.
Israeli spokesmen try to cope with the values question by using the following question/argument: "Would the United States have restrained itself in the face of ongoing rocket fire from Mexico at its children, in its sovereign territory?" It is hard to believe that such a comparison will make any impression on an intelligent man like Obama. Mexico is not under an American aerial and naval blockade, nor is it considered occupied territory under international law. The U.S. Army and American settlers have not controlled parts of Mexico for the past 41 years (and the United States was a guarantor of the Oslo Accords, which stated that Gaza and the West Bank constitute a single political entity).
As for Israel's contribution to American interests, the second component of the "special relationship," this has been in doubt for years. Every time Jews kill Arabs in the territories, American flags are burned in Egypt and Jordan. In both of its wars against Iraq, the United States managed (or failed to manage) without Israel's help, and even thanked it for remaining on the sidelines. And fear of the pro-Israel lobby sometimes compels the administration and Congress to subordinate their policy to Israel, in violation of American interests. There is no better example of this than the restraint displayed by the last two U.S. administrations toward the ongoing expansion of the settlements, which utterly contradicts the Oslo process, the road map peace plan and the Annapolis declaration.
Obama has two choices. First, he can let the Israelis bleed and kill all the way to an ostracized apartheid state, observing from the sidelines as Israel endangers peace in the Middle East and undermines his country's interests, just as George Marshall predicted. The second option is to stand at Israel's side in its struggle to achieve peace and maintain its Jewish and moral character en route to regional acceptance, which has been offered by 22 Arab states. Or in other words, to finish Truman's work.
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